Teacher Research: Motivations, Support and Impact


Nadia Melina Sabat Bass








PhD student



Nicole Mancevice


Megan Franke
Christine Lee
Nicole Mancevice
Sandra Smith


Teachers can participate in research in multiple ways as part of their professional development or in collaboration with other teachers or researchers. This research project seeks to describe the ways in which teachers engage in research at UCLA Lab School, whose mission is to promote innovation and excellence in education through research, outreach, and teaching and learning. In addition, this study focuses on teacher-researcher partnerships and seeks to understand the conditions that make such joint research projects possible and the impact they have on teachers’ own professional development and on their practices. The results from this study will enrich the field’s understanding of teacher-researcher partnerships and they will also guide improvements to the research program at UCLA Lab School.


Teachers can participate in research in multiple ways as part of their professional development or in collaboration with other teachers or researchers. Research is understood in this project as the systematic use of methods to collect, analyze and interpret information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue. There are several theoretical frameworks that guide teacher-researcher partnerships, including research–practice partnerships (RPPs), design-based research (DBR) and teacher action research (TAR), among others (Burns et al, 2011; Anderson & Shattuck, 2012; Coburn & Penuel, 2016). Each of these frameworks provide different guidelines regarding how teachers and researchers can work together, the types of problems their research focuses on, how the research is conducted and how the data are collected and findings are used. Despite these differences, the frameworks coincide in their effort to ensure that educational research has a direct impact on educational practice. Such impact of teacher-researcher partnerships can be two-fold: first, the influence that initiatives developed in the context of the partnership have on educational outcomes, and second, the influence of the actual partnership and relationship in teachers’ professional development and practice.
Most of the existing evidence on RPPs for example, focuses on the first dimension of that impact and evaluates the initiatives that resulted from specific teacher-researcher partnerships (Coburn & Penuel, 2016). This research project, on the other hand, interrogates the second dimension of that impact by considering the influence of teacher-researcher partnerships on teachers own identity as researchers as well as their professional development. Coburn and Penuel (2016) have called for more research around such impact, particularly around the role of RPPs in “building the capacity of educational systems to engage in research-informed improvement efforts” (p. 48). This research will interrogate how teacher-researcher partnerships influence research capacity building at the teacher level as well as how the partnerships help improve teachers’ instructional practices.
This research project studies teacher-researcher partnerships in the specific context of a laboratory school. The research is inscribed within a program evaluation for the research support office, CONNECT, at UCLA Lab School. UCLA Lab School enrolls children ages 4-12 and it serves as a laboratory for exploring innovative ideas about teaching, learning, and child development. The mission of the school is to promote innovation and excellence in education through research, outreach, and teaching and learning. As such, UCLA Lab School teachers can engage in different types of research and one of the objectives of this research project is to describe those diverse engagements. Over time, UCLA Lab School teachers have collaborated or participated in the work of UCLA researchers who were conducting research in their classrooms (researcher-led research). They have also initiated their own research with support from the school’s research support office, CONNECT (teacher-led research). Finally, UCLA Lab School teachers have conducted inquiries into their own practice without additional researcher support or they have conducted research related to their own continuing education. While each of these research engagements might differ in depth and breadth, they all incorporate systematic efforts to understand aspects of teacher practice, curricula, or student learning. This research project first describes the landscape of research participation at this elementary school and then considers the motivations, support and impact of teacher-researcher partnerships. The project incorporates a mixed methods sequential approach including document review, cognitive interviews, a survey and focus groups.


The research questions are:
1. What are the ways in which teachers participate in any type of research at UCLA Lab School?
2. What are the factors that lead teachers to participate in teacher-led research projects?
3. What types of supports do teachers receive and what supports do they need when participating in teacher-led research projects?
4. What is the impact of teacher-led or researcher-led research on teachers own professional development as well as in their work with students?


This study will gather information about the types of research teachers conduct at UCLA Lab School, as well as help understand what motivates them to participate in research, the types of support they need in this work and the impact of the teacher’s partnerships with researchers in teacher-led research or researcher-led research. This information will guide program improvements around research support at UCLA Lab School and in that sense it can directly benefit teacher participants. In addition, the staff that will participate in the focus group will also benefit from additional information about how teacher research unfolds at UCLA Lab School.

This research project will also enrich the field’s understanding of teacher-researcher partnerships, how to promote them, the types of assistance needed for their success and the potential impact of such endeavors.


The findings from this research project will be presented to the CONNECT office and UCLA Lab School teachers, as well as published in academic journals.




Cognitive Interviews: All demonstration or main teachers will be considered for the cognitive interviews. Three teachers will be selected to participate by the procedure I now describe. First, teachers will be categorized by their "level of experience with research" in low, medium and high involvement in research. To categorize teachers in this way, research team members from CONNECT who familiar with the matter will estimate how many research projects teachers have participated in. Within each group, I will randomly select one teacher using the data management Alteryx for that purpose. Once the sample is created, I will consider whether those selected in this first stage are representative of all grade levels of the school (Early Childhood, Primary, Intermediate, Upper). If they are not, the "level of experience with research" candidates that are from repeated grade levels will be randomly replaced by another teacher from the same "level of experience with research" category until the three teachers selected are from different grades in the school.

Survey: All demonstration or main teachers, the school psychologist and inclusion coordinator in the school will be asked to complete the survey.

Focus Group: All demonstration or main teachers, school psychologist and inclusion coordinator will be invited to participate in the focus group. From all of those interested in participating in the focus group, 10 will be randomly selected for two separate focus groups if numbers allow. All CONNECT staff will be invited to participate in a focus group.


This research project will follow a mixed methods sequential design engaging teachers and research support staff through document reviews, cognitive interviews, a survey and focus groups.


Warning: Array to string conversion in /opt/data/www/connect/wp-content/themes/ucla-connect-test/templates/content-single-project.php on line 29


Document Review


Document Review:
I will review the following documents:
Teacher Blogs:
Source: https://connect.gseis.ucla.edu/teacher-educator-blog/page/2/
• “Counting Collections at Home: Supporting Young Mathematicians in the Remote Learning Context”
• “Family Storytelling in Remote Learning”
• “Experiments with Sluggy: Inquiry and Science in Remote Learning”
• “Creating a Virtual Alphabet Book: Literacy in Remote Learning”
• “Inventive Problem Solving in a Playful Math Classroom”
• “Ownership, Agency, and Mathematical Properties”
• “Primary Classroom Doing Counting Collections”

Practitioner Brief:
Source: https://connect.gseis.ucla.edu/practitioner-briefs/
• “Pedagogical Documentation in Inquiry-Based Teaching & Learning”

Cognitive Interview
• Participants will be randomly selected to participate in a 1-hour interview that will take in person in a location of their choice where the conversation cannot be overheard by others, or if they prefer, in Zoom.
• With their permission, the interview will be audio-recorded.
• During the interview, participants will be asked to go through a teacher survey that has been designed by the researchers and comment on their process as they attempt to complete the survey. They will be asked what the questions mean to them, whether they find them clear and their general impressions regarding the flow of the survey. At the end, they will be asked some additional questions regarding their experience with research at UCLA Lab School.

• Participants will be asked to complete an anonymous 15-minutes survey online.
• In the survey, participants will be asked about their experience with research, supports they have received as well as the impact of such work in their professional development and teaching practices.

Focus Group
• After the survey, participants will be asked if they want to participate in a 60-minutes focus group.
• The focus group will take place in person in one of the school rooms where the conversation cannot be overheard by others.
• With their permission, , the focus group will be audio-recorded.
• During the focus group, the researchers will present aggregate results from the teacher survey and participants will be asked questions to provide their opinions or expand on the findings from the survey.


To begin the research process, I will review publicly available teacher blogs and other documents around teacher research at UCLA Lab School and summarize results regarding the types of research conducted, supports received and impact. Then, I will conduct cognitive interviews with three teachers about a survey that has been designed as part of the PI’s evaluation with the CONNECT office at UCLA Lab School and it is submitted in this application. The selected teachers have different levels of experience with research and teach at different grades at the school. I have chosen cognitive interviews, since as Desimone and LeFloch (2004) explain, they “serve an exploratory function by revealing reasons for the responses, identifying which questions on the survey may omit critical constructs or represent an incomplete or misleading view of the topic under question” (p. 6). The findings from the cognitive interviews will inform a redesign of the survey, which will be then submitted again to the IRB. After approval, the survey will be distributed to gather information about the research questions to all “demonstration” or main teachers at UCLA Lab School. Two weeks after the survey distribution is completed, all teachers will be invited to participate in a focus group to further elucidate and explain some of the findings in the survey. From those willing to participate, 10 teachers will be randomly selected to be in two focus groups. An additional focus group will be conducted with the CONNECT staff to understand their involvement in teacher-led research. The focus group protocols will be designed based on the analysis of the survey data and submitted to the IRB for approval before they are administered.




There are no anticipated risks or discomforts associated with this research. Data security risks are addressed in the following section regarding confidentiality.


Not applicable.


Private information will be kept confidential to the best of our abilities. Study data will be electronically secured in a Box folder, and no physical data will be kept.

Personal identifying information associated with cognitive interviews or focus groups will be coded to ensure confidentiality. The names and last names of interview and focus groups participants will be replaced by a two-digit random number code. The correspondence between names and two-digit codes will constitute a codebook that will be stored separately from the interview and focus group transcripts at a secure electronic location. The codebook will only be accessible to the research team, as will the rest of the data.

Participant interviews will be conducted in a room of their choice within UCLA Lab School grounds, where conversations cannot be overheard by others.

Privacy cannot be fully guaranteed in a focus group or group interview. Focus groups will be conducted in a private room at UCLA Lab School where conversations cannot be overheard or interrupted by others. We will also set norms around the conversation, including asking participants to not share what is discussed outside of the focus group, but we can't guarantee that a participant won't repeat something that someone said in the focus group.



I, the PI, have no direct relationship with UCLA Lab School teachers or staff, but I have been working as a Graduate Student Researcher with CONNECT for approximately 1 year. CONNECT staff have experience working with teachers on research projects, as well as prior relationships with a large portion of them. In addition, the school principal and other administrative staff are aware of the research project and have expressed interest in the results from the teacher survey.


Teachers/Staff are the research participants for this project.

Informed consent will be processed as follows. The study information sheet will be sent with the recruitment email for interviews and focus groups. This information will later be restated at the beginning of the interview or focus group to ensure participants have read them and understand their rights and scope of participation. This process will end with the request for oral consent to participate in either the interview or focus group. The survey will contain a question where the participants “opt-in” to having their data included as part of the research study. The question includes a link to the study’s information sheet.


All demonstration or main teachers, the school psychologist and inclusion coordinator. CONNECT staff.


All grades


The Impact of Teacher Research
Teacher/Researcher partnerhips


Not applicable


A room for cognitive interviews and focus groups that is located in the school grounds, for participants' ease of access.










Warning: Array to string conversion in /opt/data/www/connect/wp-content/themes/ucla-connect-test/templates/content-single-project.php on line 29